WC2014 Cameroon 0 – 4 Croatia

Song goes all elbowtastic as he loses his mind and gets a red card sendoff

Song goes all elbowtastic as he loses his mind and gets a red card sendoff

Bingo Big Boy, That Was My Bonus

Poor Cameroon, they haven’t had it easy. First, they were delayed getting to Brazil due to a contretemps over win bonuses. Two losses later and the team is in trouble. Already out of the World Cup, they face a long wait for a cheap flight home on PeopleSmuggler Airways, and the very real prospect that, should they fail to win their remaining game against Brazil, the entire team will be sold off to the highest bidder in an attempt by the Cameroon FA to recoup the cost of this campaign. The prospect of a lifetime of indentured servitude (and not at £100,000 a week mind) has obviously had a seriously detrimental effect on the players, who have taken to extreme on-pitch measures to counter the threat.


WC2014: Brazil 3 – 1 Croatia

Top Footballer Neymar

Easy peasy. Neymar celebrates possibly the softest penalty ever.

The Corruptocracy Strikes Back

Four years after the good ship Gerontocrat set sail from South Africa and pointed its way Westward, it has finally hit land. Or not so much hit land as impaled it with a gigantic spike that oozes filth and pus like a good ‘un.

Fresh from a diet of pure bribes and firstborn, the FIFA undead have docked in a land full of lovely fresh meat, an innocent land full of dreams and expectations ripe for bleeding. And who better to begin the bleeding than the tax ignoring, self-aggrandising corruptocrats of Blatter the Hutt and his merry pranksters?

Now they have finally sunk their claws into Brazil, burrowing like disgraced ticks into its lusty flesh, we’re ready for the football.


Euro 2012: Day 11

Play Badly And Win: Spain 1 – 0 Croatia

What should have been a great match was made dreary by tactics. Despite the Croats needing to score to have a chance of qualification (only a win or a high scoring draw would do) they really didn’t pose much of a threat for the first 70 minutes or so. Their plan seems to have been to tire the Spanish out by allowing them to have too much possession of the ball.

The Spanish, meanwhile, appear to have been playing well within themselves. Either that or they were giving a very good impression of a team that was unable to meet its own high standards, appeared somewhat exhausted and was unable to gel together properly. Indeed, there were moments when they were comprehensively outplayed by the Croats, when Modric sparkled down the right wing, then put in a beautiful cross off the outside of his boot only to see Rakitic head it straight at Casillas. That and a volley from outside the area were the Croats two significant chances. After that the game was effectively over.

Spain’s one moment of genuine class decided the game. A through ball from Fabregas saw Iniesta finally break the Croat defence and square the ball for the onrushing Jesus Navas to slam into the net from a couple of yards. The venom with which he struck the ball ensured that, but for the net, that ball would still be traveling two days later.

Play Badly And Lose: Ireland 0 – 2 Italy

Well top marks the Irish. At least they managed to hold it to nil-nil for more than five minutes. Indeed it wasn’t until the 36th minute that their chronically useless defence spreadeagled itself in front of the Italian onslaught. A corner headed in and once again the Irish had conceded from a set piece. And while an Irish goal might have sent the Italians home, it never looked like really happening. And when they conceded a late second, again from a corner, their misery was complete.

Bad beyond belief the Irish have even less to take home from this tournament than the Dutch (and that’s saying something). Null points, one goal and a goal difference of -8. Two goalkeeping howlers, three goals from set pieces and a brace for goal drought Fernando Torres. The Irish represent everything that is wrong with ‘macho’ football. Staffed by big men with plenty of ‘heart’ and nothing in their boots, they showed that there is no point to football without skill, tactics and guile. Rarely threatening, always in danger, Ireland were like the minnows of the Cup coming up against the big boys and finally understanding the possibilities the game they had been playing all their lives had to offer and realising that they would never, as individuals, begin to ascend the foothills of the talents they were playing against.

The idea that the Irish can qualify for this tournament while teams like the Belgians are left on the sidelines makes a mockery of the qualification process. The sooner they and the footballing philosophy they represent are banished the better.

Euro 2012: Day 7

Are We Nearly There Yet? Italy 1 – 1 Croatia

The weirdest thing about the second round matches is that while some of them mean the world, others mean almost nothing, especially when the result is a tired stagnatory draw like this one. Neither team really loses, both live to fight another day, although the Italians begin to worry about conspiracy theories and matchfixing – which adds a whole new level of delicious irony to the proceedings. Apparently, if the Croats and the Spanish were to draw 2 – 2, then any result the Italians got against the Irish (and it’s as safe a bet as any that the Italians will get a result against the Irish) will still result in the Italians flying home to deal with their latest league fixing, bribery and corruption scandal. Last time they had one they won the World Cup, this time their technocrat PM has suggested they suspend their league for three years while they sort out their endemic football corruption issues.

Anyway, this match appeared to matter little and impressed few. The Italians were as obdurate as always, the Croats simply reinforced the feeling that they aren’t quite as good as their teams of a decade and four years ago. Luca Modric on his own simply can’t compensate for the rest of the team. Yet simply for the humour value of it, you have to hope the Spanish and the Croats do actually get to a 2 – 2 draw and call it a day.

And That’s Your Ticket Home, See You At The Airport: Spain 4 – 0 Ireland

You have to sense that the Irish are glad it’s all over. To be honest, they’d probably be glad if matches finished after the first five minutes and they’d only lost them one – nil. Comfortably the worst side to have made it here, the Irish didn’t even go as far as making up the numbers. They simply imploded. If ever there was a lesson that the choices and tactics of the likes of MCarthy and his ilk have become utterly redundant, then this Irish side are it. There is, it appears, a world of difference between coming second in your group behind Russia, then winning a playoff against the mighty Estonia, and actually being able to compete with the big boys.

And of all the big boys, Spain are top dogs (although the next fortnight will determine if they stay there). And the Irish simply had no answer to them. Admittedly they lasted a whole minute more than they did against Croatia, but it was all over after 5 minutes as another defensive catastrophe saw Torres score his first competitive international goal in 2 years. After that it was Spain’s new version of tiki-taka for the rest of the match.

While Roy Keane will apparently always have an axe to grind with regard to his country’s team, you have to agree with his comment that the side need to get out of the ‘just here for the craic and a sing-song’ mentality. However, Ireland have been so comfortably bad that it’s hard to think of any positives they could take away. Like Engerland at World Cup 2010, they may live to regret having signed up their manager for another two years just before the tournament.

Euro 2012: Day 3

Gosh That Felt Almost… Mature. Spain 1 – 1 Italy

Still an unappealing logo any way you look at it

After the vaguely infantile activities of days 1 and 2, it felt like the really big boys had finally shown up and they were determined to play a more disciplined game. Yet for all their maturity, neither Spain nor Italy really laid down any kind of marker for the tournament as a whole.

Spain’s decision to play a 37 man midfield with no strikers might have seemed sensible given the hypnotic effect of all that tiki-taka stuff. Yet, like the Dutch, the Spanish soon realised that possession as an aim in itself is fundamentally pointless without some kind of effective finishing. And for vast periods of time the Spanish looked lovely on the ball without doing anything genuinely threatening. Certainly it didn’t seem to bother the Italians greatly.

Meanwhile, the Italians were playing a typically Italian game, obdurately defensive, again without really displaying anything that appeared to qualify as a goal threat.  Although once they’d replaced the faltering Mario Ballotelli with Napoli’s Di Natale, they managed to score with the latter’s first touch. They then displayed an untypical lack of defensive nous by allowing the Spaniards to finally tiki-taka it past them and equalise.

After that it was a very mature game of inconclusive footballing. Neither side looked really threatening and you felt that, like many other teams, both were happy with a draw.

Football At Its Worst. Croatia 3 – 1 Republic Of Ireland

Poor Rob Green, poor Paul Robinson, poor Calamity James, poor Engerland keeper whose name escapes me but who has Terry Thomas teeth, for they inhabit a special circle of international goalkeeping hell. Yet within this particular cesspit of embarrassment and incompetence, there is a special place reserved for Shay Given, international goalkeeping catastrophe par excellence.

It takes skill and hours of training to fuck things up so spectacularly on an international stage. How, for instance, do you make Szczesny, whose performance for Poland plummeted to new and exciting new depths, look like a pillar of goalkeeping respectability? Well, fluffing your lines in the first three minutes to give the Croatians an early lead might do it. No? Well how about failing to cope with a long range effort only to see it bounce off the post, then your head and fly into the net. You sense at that point if the ground had opened up before him, Given would have jumped at the chance to bury himself.

Yet he wasn’t nearly the least impressive of the Irish. This is comfortably the worst team in the competition, a team who epitomise everything that is wrong with international football. Constant grabbing, bad tackling, rubbish passing, constant hoofball, the Irish had the full set of shite clubs in their armory.  It is stunning to think that this bunch of tired, incompetent journeymen have made it this far. And the next competition will feature 24 rather than 16 teams.

Ireland were so bad that it was impressive that they actually scored, more of a reflection of Croatia’s incompetence than any skill or effectiveness on the part of the Irish. Still, with performances this bad the Irish will soon be long gone.